Monday, July 8, 2013


Wonder, R. J. Palacio

This is a brilliant book. I cannot recommend this one highly enough for parents to read with their children, especially those around age 10. August Pullman is a 10 year old boy about to start Year 5, he loves his parents, his dog and Star Wars. He has good friends and a loving sister. Yet starting school presents a challenge – up till now August has been home-schooled and so has never attended a regular school. Why? He has no learning difficulties – he is very smart; he has no disability or special needs that prevent him, but he does have a severe facial disfigurement so that he looks really different.
I know I’m not an ordinary ten-year-old kid. I mean, sure, I do ordinary things. I eat ice cream. I ride my bike. I play ball. I have an xBox. Stuff like that makes me ordinary. I guess. And I feel ordinary. Inside. But I know ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. I know ordinary kids don’t get stared at wherever they go ... My name is August by the way. I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse. (p3)
This book is in 8 sections, all told from different people’s perspectives, including August, his sister Via and his new friends Jack & Summer. The chapters within the sections are really short – only 1-3 pages, so it’s very easy to read either small snippets or large amounts, and very easy to have your child read some sections to you as well.

I was incredibly impressed with the way Palacio has written this book, I think she has accurately presented how life is for people with physical disfigurement – how people stare, how children (& adults) can be cruel and insensitive, and yet how it doesn’t matter how you look to close friends and family. She has wonderful portrayals of cruel kids, loving parents, excellent supportive teachers, and protective siblings and friends.

It gave my son and I lots of things to talk about and I am very glad we read it together and digested it slowly over a lot of nights and had a chance to talk about the issues raised in it. Age 10 is probably the minimum age for this one, but it is appropriate for quite a few years older than that. For those who are also familiar with Star Wars, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and some other attractions of this age group, they will appreciate the references to them within.

I warn you though, if you read this one aloud to your children, chances are you will end up in tears yourself at points. At a number of points, I got so choked up I either had to hand it to my son to finish the section or he got to see me really affected by the story (which is not a bad thing, by the way!).  I should emphasize, it's not all serious and emotional!  It is also laugh-out-loud funny and very clever.

I am sure this book will end up on set reading lists for upper primary and lower high school students. After reading this one from the library, I have ordered a copy – I know my son will read this again and again and I will want to read it to both the girls when they are older.


Camilla said...

Sounds great! I'll read this too, always good to have recommendations for friends and family with younger kids too.

We are currently enjoying EH Gombrich A Little History of the World... Haven't finished yet, but so far and excellent introduction to world history from Biblical times right through past WWII. Also works well as a read aloud.

Wendy said...

Thanks Camilla, I might keep an eye out for that one. Always good to keep up with history! Thanks.

Wendy said...

We have now also read Auggie & me: three Wonder stories. These are follow up stories for after you have read Wonder. The first is from Julian's point of view and really opens him up as a character. Then it's a day in the life of Christopher, Auggie's oldest friend. Finally, some accounts of Charlotte's year, which point out that the things that happened at school that year didn't all centre on Auggie - everyone had their own story to tell.

Well worth reading to add to the whole picture, if you enjoyed Wonder.